Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

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Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Sun Aug 16, 2020 5:31 pm

A bit 'left field' for SolarChat, but I thought it might be interesting to some, nevertheless.

I've set up a SDR system to detect radio emissions from the Sun (17-30 MHz range) using a dipole aerial in the attic and my PC in my garage (man cave) ;). This will be the main purpose of the system. However, over the last few days we've experienced the annual Perseid meteor shower so I thought I'd see if I could detect radio reflections from meteor trails using as my target a radar station situated 'over the horizon' in France. There are several web sites that describe how to do this and once you've got the appropriate kit it is really easy to do. The issue for me was that I was using a dipole aerial tuned for the 10m band (30 MHz) to detect radar signals at 143.048 MHz (2 kHz below the broadcast frequency of 143.050 MHz). Normally one would use a Yagi antenna (a bit like an analogue TV aerial) of the appropriate dimensions and construction for the wavelength of interest (I'm currently constructing one of these). Anyhow, even with the mismatched antenna I managed to collect some interesting data.

The principles are straightforward enough. If the target transmitter is over the horizon from your vantage point, then the signal emitted from that transmitter would normally radiate into space and remain undetected by your receiver because of the land mass between the two points. However, when a meteor enters Earth's atmosphere and disintegrates at high altitude, the ionised trail of debris acts 'like a mirror' reflecting the target radio signals back down to Earth, over the hill between transmitter and receiver, where they are detected as a blip on the radio spectrum analyser software. By shifting the detector frequency down by 2 KHz and selecting 'Upper Side Band' an approximately 2 KHz ping can be heard (the actual frequency depends on the speed and direction of the meteor in relation to the transmitter/receiver) and this can be displayed on an audio spectrum analyser (such as Spectrum Lab). A bit of code embedded in Spectrum Lab enables the pings to be logged as a function of time for specific days during recording.

Here's a screen shot from my PC running the SDR software and Spectrum Lab. My magnetometer record is also shown running in the lower right.
System Setup.jpg
System Setup.jpg (432.4 KiB) Viewed 669 times
Now for the fun bit.....

Once set up and tested out on local radio stations the system was tuned to 143.048 MHz and set to record continuously any detected events. I started on August 10th and it's still running as at the time of writing.

Here's a 24hr cumulative count plot for August 13th, which represents the peak of the Perseid shower
August 13th Data.jpg
August 13th Data.jpg (125.18 KiB) Viewed 669 times
Note the rate can be approximated by a linear 'average' rate over most of the night, at least from midnight through to 6:00 am and a little beyond (although there are short periods of raised and reduced 'hourly rate'). Through approximately noon and evening time the apparent rate reduces, although this is more about detection ability falling off rather than the number of meteors/hr reducing. It's a function of the Earth turning under the shower.

The following two charts show the daily plots for the days leading up to max (10th through 13th) and leading out of max (13th through 15th).
August 10th_13th Data.jpg
August 10th_13th Data.jpg (182.14 KiB) Viewed 669 times
August 13th_15th Data.jpg
August 13th_15th Data.jpg (162.67 KiB) Viewed 669 times
Taking the slope of the approximately linear region over the period midnight to 6:00 am, thereby calculating an average hourly detection rate for this period, I was able to plot this as a function of time (by day) to show when the peak occurred.
Rate vs Date.jpg
Rate vs Date.jpg (61.26 KiB) Viewed 669 times
Although my hourly rates do not correspond with 'Zenith normalised' eyeball observations (which as Pedro showed in the link provided are about twice those shown here), given that my antenna is not properly matched to the broadcast frequency and is, therefore, inefficient, I was pretty pleased with the results which at least corroborate with when max occurred. I'll certainly be doing this again for other meteor showers using a more appropriately configured antenna.

If you've got this far, thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope you found it interesting.

Stu.
Last edited by Carbon60 on Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:44 am, edited 1 time in total.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Sun Aug 16, 2020 5:57 pm

Hi Stu,

I found it very interesting. Thanks.

:bow2


regards Rainer

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by JochenM » Mon Aug 17, 2020 3:37 am

Nicely done, Stu.

I've done it myself a number of years ago. I have an hackrf one with upconverter lying around here somewhere that I haven't touched in a long time. It's quite interesting what you can detect with a relatively inexpensive piece of kit.


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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Montana » Mon Aug 17, 2020 7:36 am

Wonderful Stuart!! you are so clever!! I have been wanting to do something to catch meteors for a long time now and would love to do this. A few questions:

Are you going to do a write up of how to do and what to buy?
Is it possible to do this under high voltage electric cables?
Can you hear them or are they just plots on a graph?
Rather than cumulative counts wouldn't it be better to plot actual counts per hour for each night, then it would be possible to find the hour of the peak?

I was thinking of buying the Oculus all sky camera but Pedro doesn't think it is sensitive enough and also our clear nights are rather rare. Also my money I saved for this project vanished over the weekend and the money is now being used to pay for new garage doors. On Saturday was a horrible half an hour. The garage door cable snapped during opening and I had to use all my strength for 30 minutes to stop the garage door crashing on to the MX5 underneath whilst the hubby tried desperately to free the cable and then try and crash it forwards away from the car. I didn't realise I had such super human strength until an emergency. Anyway, bang goes the Oculus :( I hope the radio antenna is cheaper?

Alexandra



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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by p_zetner » Mon Aug 17, 2020 12:20 pm

Brilliant stuff, Stu!

I have the same question as Alexandra. Why not plot the count rate itself as opposed to accumulated counts?

I’m setting up a system myself to measure solar radio activity in the 30 to 50 MHz band. I’m hoping to do spectral analysis on bursts when the Sun becomes more active. Hopefully, someday, you’ll be able to correlate solar radio bursts with your magnetometer readings.

Cheers.
Peter

(Alexandra: Sorry to hear about your garage door nightmare but I can’t get an image of The Incredible Hulk out of my mind!)



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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Mon Aug 17, 2020 9:46 pm

Montana wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 7:36 am
Wonderful Stuart!! you are so clever!! I have been wanting to do something to catch meteors for a long time now and would love to do this. A few questions:

Are you going to do a write up of how to do and what to buy?
Is it possible to do this under high voltage electric cables?
Can you hear them or are they just plots on a graph?
Rather than cumulative counts wouldn't it be better to plot actual counts per hour for each night, then it would be possible to find the hour of the peak?

I was thinking of buying the Oculus all sky camera but Pedro doesn't think it is sensitive enough and also our clear nights are rather rare. Also my money I saved for this project vanished over the weekend and the money is now being used to pay for new garage doors. On Saturday was a horrible half an hour. The garage door cable snapped during opening and I had to use all my strength for 30 minutes to stop the garage door crashing on to the MX5 underneath whilst the hubby tried desperately to free the cable and then try and crash it forwards away from the car. I didn't realise I had such super human strength until an emergency. Anyway, bang goes the Oculus :( I hope the radio antenna is cheaper?

Alexandra
Yikes....superhuman strength and stamina required indeed, there, Alexandra. At least you saved the MX5. :)

Regarding your questions:

Hopefully this link from Popular Astronomy Works. It’s what I used as my ‘how to’ guide. I can also help if you wish.

https://www.popastro.com/main_spa1/mete ... ving-2020/

The high voltage cables shouldn’t be an issue.
You’ll hear ‘pings’ at around 2 kHz. The tone can also be ascending or descending.

The software does actually count the number of detections per hour, so this is easy to plot in excel and there’s a means of displaying the data as a ‘heat map’ colour coded to show counts by the hour for each day of the month. This is quite the conventional way of displaying these data.

I chose to calculate an average hourly rate for the overnight period from the cumulative count plots and then plot these over the 6 days to determine approximately the peak. The reason for doing this is because the actual hourly rate counted on your specific detector only shows the state of play from your vantage point on the planet at any one time. As Earth rotates, then your vantage point relative to the shower radiant rotates and the apparent hourly rate drops, particularly during the afternoon and evening. Consequently, the actual peak could be happening elsewhere on the planet when your location is in a quiet spot, so plotting the local hourly rate does not really help in findIng the peak with any greater degree of accuracy.

The cost of doing this is very modest.

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:00 pm

p_zetner wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 12:20 pm

I have the same question as Alexandra. Why not plot the count rate itself as opposed to accumulated counts?

I’m setting up a system myself to measure solar radio activity in the 30 to 50 MHz band. I’m hoping to do spectral analysis on bursts when the Sun becomes more active. Hopefully, someday, you’ll be able to correlate solar radio bursts with your magnetometer.
Hi Peter,

Please refer to my response to Alexandra concerning counting.
It’ll be interesting to see how your solar activity monitoring progresses and compares with my own. We just need more solar activity to produce some emissions. :)

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Mon Aug 17, 2020 11:07 pm

Regarding your questions:

Hopefully this link from Popular Astronomy Works. It’s what I used as my ‘how to’ guide. I can also help if you wish.

https://www.popastro.com/main_spa1/mete ... ving-2020/
Hi,

I read the whole paper but now comes my dilemma. How can I find out where a radio station is which transmits in 143.050 MHz ?

are these stations common or is this a special frequency used for tests or ¿? :? :? :?

Thanks


regards Rainer

Observatorio Real de 14 San Luis Potosi Mexico

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Tue Aug 18, 2020 6:08 am

rsfoto wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 11:07 pm

Hi,

I read the whole paper but now comes my dilemma. How can I find out where a radio station is which transmits in 143.050 MHz ?

are these stations common or is this a special frequency used for tests or ¿? :? :? :?

Thanks
Hi Rainer,

The important thing is to find a suitable transmitter that’s constantly transmitting a uniform signal in a location beyond your horizon. There’s someone in Mexico located in Hillo Sonora receiving at 54.309 MHz. I don’t know how this relates to your location, but it’s worth checking it out as a possibility.

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Tue Aug 18, 2020 3:23 pm

Carbon60 wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 6:08 am
rsfoto wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 11:07 pm

Hi,

I read the whole paper but now comes my dilemma. How can I find out where a radio station is which transmits in 143.050 MHz ?

are these stations common or is this a special frequency used for tests or ¿? :? :? :?

Thanks
Hi Rainer,

The important thing is to find a suitable transmitter that’s constantly transmitting a uniform signal in a location beyond your horizon. There’s someone in Mexico located in Hillo Sonora receiving at 54.309 MHz. I don’t know how this relates to your location, but it’s worth checking it out as a possibility.

Stu.
Hi Stu,

Thanks for the answer. So from that I deduct that one can take any Radio station as a reference which is transmitting 24 hours a day.

There is no city Hillo in Sonora Mexico, but there is a town called Hermosillo Sonora and someone thought it is cool to make it shorter and write Hillo :lol:

Will try to see where I can find a station. So I guess the frquency is not imortant but more important 24 hours transmitting ¿ right ?


regards Rainer

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Thu Aug 20, 2020 6:35 am

[/quote]

Hi Stu,

Thanks for the answer. So from that I deduct that one can take any Radio station as a reference which is transmitting 24 hours a day.

There is no city Hillo in Sonora Mexico, but there is a town called Hermosillo Sonora and someone thought it is cool to make it shorter and write Hillo :lol:

Will try to see where I can find a station. So I guess the frquency is not imortant but more important 24 hours transmitting ¿ right ?
[/quote]

Hi Rainer, It might be worth checking to see if there’s an active (radio meteor) association in Mexico with recommendations.

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Thu Aug 20, 2020 3:26 pm

Carbon60 wrote:
Thu Aug 20, 2020 6:35 am
Hi Stu,

Thanks for the answer. So from that I deduct that one can take any Radio station as a reference which is transmitting 24 hours a day.

There is no city Hillo in Sonora Mexico, but there is a town called Hermosillo Sonora and someone thought it is cool to make it shorter and write Hillo :lol:

Will try to see where I can find a station. So I guess the frquency is not imortant but more important 24 hours transmitting ¿ right ?
[/quote]

Hi Rainer, It might be worth checking to see if there’s an active (radio meteor) association in Mexico with recommendations.

Stu.
[/quote]

Hi Stu,

Will do. I have read about Dr. Salvador Aguirre in Hermosillo Sonora. I will contact him.

As far as I know those dongles are normal radio receivers and so I can imagine I can ehar the radio stations and Identifying which radio station I am hearing I can find out where it is located and so on ...

Or am I wrong in my assumption ?


regards Rainer

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:40 pm

Hi Rainer,

Absolutely correct. The device can detect 'normal' radio broadcasts as well as meteor reflections :)

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:54 pm

Carbon60 wrote:
Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:40 pm
Hi Rainer,

Absolutely correct. The device can detect 'normal' radio broadcasts as well as meteor reflections :)

Stu.
Hi Stu,

OK, that means I buy a Dongle and search for radio stations transmitting 24 hours a day and see where they are located and then build my Yagi-Antenna.

Any recommendation for a Dongle RTL-SDR ?

Some already come with a 2 meter antenna cable and a USB extension cable (least problem).

Prices vary as in a vegetable shop ... :-)

I already found a Yagi Antenna calculator https://www.basictables.com/amateur-rad ... gi-antenna

I guess I can also use Aluminum tube instead of copper tube for the Antenna ¿?


regards Rainer

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Fri Aug 21, 2020 3:53 pm

Hi,

I jumped into the water and ordered yesterday an " RTL-SDR.COM " starter kit. Tentatively it will arrive on Saturday 29 from USA :cry:

Now I am just keen to see what comes next ... and what all I need to learn to understand this better ...


:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:


PS @ Stu, you have a PM :)


regards Rainer

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Fri Aug 21, 2020 6:09 pm

Glad it’s coming along nicely, Rainer.

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Fri Aug 21, 2020 9:55 pm

Carbon60 wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 6:09 pm
Glad it’s coming along nicely, Rainer.

Stu.
Hi Stu,

Yes and you will need a lot of patience when I start. Be prepared to answer Zillions of questions from my side ...


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


regards Rainer

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Sat Aug 22, 2020 4:29 pm

Hi Stu,

Update. My Kit already arrives on Tuesday 25 and not Saturday 29 ... but first I have to install some shelves in the House :( :( :( (takes time away from playing with the SDR) :lol:

:hamster: :hamster: :hamster: :hamster:

In this regard you mention in your original posting that you used a dipole antenna. Now I have read Dipoles are most effective when positioned in Vertical way but then I see that all Yagi antennas ( as far as i have understood are Dipole antennas with reflectors and directors) are positioned in Horizontal way.

In the case of having reflectors and directors does this not matter anymore ?

:?
Last edited by rsfoto on Sun Sep 27, 2020 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.


regards Rainer

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Sun Aug 23, 2020 5:37 am

Hi Rainer,

A tuned Yagi for the specific wavelength, pointing towards the transmitter at an appropriate elevation is the usual approach. This is where I’m going next with this, with a home built antenna. I’m currently using a long dipole tuned for a completely different waveband (intended to detect solar radio outbursts) simply because this is what I have got available. This is slung horizontally in my attic.

You’re correct, a Yagi is a dipole with a reflector at the rear and a steering element at the front (sometimes more than one). They are generally horizontal. Your antenna is a starting point. Once you find a suitable transmitter, and it’s frequency, then you’ll be able to optimise to obtain the best reception.

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:49 pm

Hi Stu,

Thank you. I have been reading a lot lately.

I read somewhere that in America Band 1 TV stations are still working and they work in a frequency range of 54 - 72 MHz and 76 - 88 MHz . This is, I assume, the reason why that mexican guy in Hermosillo, Sonora has its receiver tuned at 54.309 MHz. Would be good for me to find out if that one is also reachable for me. My best direction to find a transmission tower is between NW and NE. The the other directions two many buildings.

Having the receiver the search will be easy. :o

The other TV frequencies here in Mexico are in the range of 470 - 602 MHz.

I found some info which frequencies are used for what in Mexico here .

My first job will be to search for frequencies in those two ranges and then find out what is the maximum transmission power of this stations.

Will keep informing you about my results. Thank you.


regards Rainer

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:54 pm

Hi Stu,

Yesterday I got the SDR Hardware, a RTL-SDR.COM Dongle, and so far it is working on my PC's troublefree.

Scan frequency is from 500 kHz up to 1770 MHz.

Have been playing around a bit with it but now I am truly lost :?

I have been scanning the whole available band and really I do not know what I am looking for as a beacon for Meteor tracking. I have found some frequencies which seem to boradcast nothing but have a good signal. Need to find out where they are located and this will be a major problem I guess.

I think using VOR / ILS beacons is senseless as they come from the Airport in my town.

Will keep searching for a Radio amateur.

Have not yer found out how to record a transmission. Also I need to find out how to reduce noise.

Also waiting to get my book :cool:

Here a good signal I guess and which according a list I found is a VHF TV station. OK, I am just playing around with the Dipole antenna I got.

Questions over questions and many incognitas :lol: :lol: :lol:


Image


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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Tue Aug 25, 2020 7:06 pm

Hi Stu,

Found another frequency belonging to a terrestrial Antenna station ~ 350 km away.

Now when tuning in via WFM the center there is nothing to hear at all but when going USB - 2kHz then the noise gets very loud.

I am going to improvise a 3 element Yagi and point it in that direction. The question is, is it a 24/7 transmitter ?


Image


Image


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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Tue Aug 25, 2020 8:26 pm

Hi Rainer,

This transmitter would be perfect if it were a little further away. The idea is that you shouldn’t be able to detect the signal until a meteor reflects it from up high where it disintegrates into an ion trail. The loud sound you’re hearing is the 2kHz frequency difference between your tuned frequency and the broadcast frequency. This is what you would hear as a meteor reflected signal from ‘over the hill’ with a correctly located transmitter. Don’t forget to set the bandwidth to 4000 Hz. Currently yours is set at 1610 Hz.

Recording data is done using Spectrum Lab and the settings provided in the links in the paper.

Good to see things coming along :)

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by Carbon60 » Tue Aug 25, 2020 8:44 pm

Rainer, from your location you might find suitable transmitters over the boarder in the south east US, such as Austin TX. Any here would be well beyond the line of sight and would only be detectable by meteor reflection.

Stu.


H-alpha, WL and Ca II K imaging kit for various image scales.
Fluxgate Magnetometers (1s and 150s Cadence).
Radio meteor detector.
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarcarbon60/

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Re: Perseid Meteor Detection by Radio

Post by rsfoto » Tue Aug 25, 2020 8:55 pm

Carbon60 wrote:
Tue Aug 25, 2020 8:26 pm
Hi Rainer,

This transmitter would be perfect if it were a little further away. The idea is that you shouldn’t be able to detect the signal until a meteor reflects it from up high where it disintegrates into an ion trail. The loud sound you’re hearing is the 2kHz frequency difference between your tuned frequency and the broadcast frequency. This is what you would hear as a meteor reflected signal from ‘over the hill’ with a correctly located transmitter. Don’t forget to set the bandwidth to 4000 Hz. Currently yours is set at 1610 Hz.

Recording data is done using Spectrum Lab and the settings provided in the links in the paper.

Good to see things coming along :)

Stu.
Hi Stu,

Thanks. So this means that If I hear noise the transmitter is not behind a hill ?


regards Rainer

Observatorio Real de 14 San Luis Potosi Mexico

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